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June 21, 2009
Pakistan 139 for 2 (Afridi 54*, Akmal 37) beat Sri Lanka 138 for 6 (Sangakkara 64*, Mathews 35*, Razzaq 3-20) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It wasn't the edge-of-the-seat final that would have signed off the ICC World Twenty20 in style, but that won't matter to Pakistan who gave their nation a something to savour amid troubled times. From the moment Tillakaratne Dilshan, the tournament's top-scorer, fell in the opening over Pakistan had a grip on the match. Shahid Afridi, who emerged as their trump card, guided his team home in the 19th over with an unbeaten 54, and it was left to Younis Khan to raise the trophy in what he later announced would be his final Twenty20 international, in front of a sea of delirious Pakistan supporters.
Pakistan won't be playing at home for the foreseeable future, but the following they have had at this event has reinforced the notion that England can be a surrogate home. The masses were cheering from early on as Abdul Razzaq - a great individual comeback-story among the team's resurgence - claimed three key wickets in his opening burst to leave Sri Lanka on 32 for 4. They never looked back despite the best efforts of Kumar Sangakkara.
Occasionally the tension rose as the required rate climbed, but each time Afridi was on hand with one of his most mature innings. He hit consecutive balls from Muttiah Muralitharan for six and four in the 14th over, a calculated assault against a key bowler. The destination of the trophy was sealed when he swung a huge six over midwicket off Isuru Udana in the 18th over - the moment when Sangakkara gambled on one of his weaker bowling links - and followed that with another boundary off a high full toss.
Shoaib Malik played his part with 24 off 22 balls in a match-winning stand of 76 after Kamran Akmal had given early impetus to the top-order. The batsmen knew they didn't have to take many risks and played Ajantha Mendis better than any other team as he went for his most expensive spell of the tournament.
Pakistan's rise from rank outsiders to champions is an extraordinary display for a team that had to beat Netherlands by a significant margin to even stay in the event during the group stages. However, they have peaked at the right time and couldn't have produced a more complete performance for a final. They fell five runs short two years ago at Johannesburg, but this time there was no mistake.
Sri Lanka, who have been the model of consistency, were caught off guard by aggressive tactics. In a stirring atmosphere, Pakistan were on top of their game from the start as 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer belied his inexperience with a tone-setting opening over. In a clear plan he bowled short at Dilshan who was distinctly discomforted by the approach. Against the fifth ball Dilshan tried to take the initiative with a scoop over short fine-leg, but only managed to pick out the man on the edge of the circle. He had middled virtually all his attempts at the shot during the tournament and what a time for it to go wrong.
With the tournament's leading run-scorer heading off Pakistan were buoyed and Sri Lanka shaken. Jehan Mubarak was promoted to No. 3, but he couldn't survive the second over when he came down the pitch and got a leading edge into the covers to give Razzaq his first.
Sri Lanka briefly rallied as Sanath Jaysuriya suggested he could marshal a turnaround. Favouring the leg side he swung Razzaq for six with a forceful short-arm pull and collected four more next ball, but it was a short-lived response when an inside edge crashed into the stumps. Razzaq was flat on his face at the moment of dismissal after slipping in his follow-through but it was Sri Lanka who were feeling unsteady.
Younis Khan went on the attack and his decision to post a wide slip paid rich dividends when Mahela Jayawardene steered the ball straight to Misbah-ul-Haq at ankle height. Razzaq was playing his cricket with a new lease of life after being giving another crack at international level. He wasn't part of the original squad, but Yasir Arafat's injury that prompted the switch now looked like a stroke of fortune.
Four wickets inside the Powerplay meant Sri Lanka had little choice but to play it safe as Younis turned to his spinners. Sangakkara was calmness personified amid Sri Lanka's problems aware that the hopes of a decent total rested on his shoulders. He paced his innings expertly, reaching fifty off 44 balls despite the problems that surrounded him, but only found support when joined by Angelo Mathews.
The final five overs brought 59 runs and if any attack could make a game out of 138 it was Sri Lanka's. However, early wickets were key and they didn't materialise as Akmal and Shahzaid Hasan played sensibly. The wizardry of Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan and the accuracy of Lasith Malinga have provided wonderful entertainment over the last weeks, but on this occasion couldn't conjure the magic spell that was needed.
As Afridi and Malik embraced mid-pitch after the winning moment the emotion showed what this victory means for Pakistan. They needed this success most and perhaps that drive was the deciding factor. The country faces a difficult few years of rebuilding, but this victory will have brought great joy and, hopefully, belief of a brighter future.
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